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Summer 2024: Letter from the President & CEO

  ·  Sylvia Puente

Dear Friends and Community,

It is finally summer, a great time to connect with friends and loved ones and create lasting memories under the warm sun. As busy as we all are, I hope you get an opportunity to rest and recharge. At the Latino Policy Forum, summer is when we go into planning mode, for the new legislative session, Multicultural Leadership Academy graduation, and Latinos on the Move. There’s so much to do!

In the midst of everything that we are preparing for the rest of the year, we moved! Earlier this month, we said goodbye to our old office, which we long outgrew, and transitioned to a new space for the Latino Policy Forum. Our move fills me with mixed emotions as I reflect on the memories over the years and the growth we have achieved – not only in terms of our staff size and office space but also in our overall capacity and impact. In a way, I see this growth as a symbol of our increased commitment to Latino equity.

In May, we held our biggest Latino Unity Day yet with over 400 community leaders, advocates, students and policymakers gathered to learn, build community and capacity, and advocate for Latino equity. This year’s event was a huge success, featuring in-depth panels and workshops, a rally at the Illinois State Capitol, and remarks from community leaders, deputy governors, members of the Illinois Latino Caucus, and Governor J.B. Pritzker.

“At the very first Latino Unity Day, we had 62 people. So, this [Latino Unity Day] is my dream come true.” -Sylvia Puente, Latino Policy Forum President and CEO

It is incredible to see how much Latino Unity Day has grown since its inception. What started as a small gathering has blossomed into such an important event, reflecting the rising influence and power of Latinos in Illinois. Specifically, the increase in Latino representation in the IL legislature is a testament to our collective efforts, and signals to me even more growth in the future. Thank you to all who attended Latino Unity Day 2024 – I hope to see you again next year!

Summer has just begun, and it has already been eventful. Just last week, I joined community leaders, immigration advocates, elected officials, and other members of the Work Permits for All Coalition to celebrate President Biden’s recent executive order, which will extend protections and work permits to certain long-term undocumented spouses and stepchildren of US citizens, as well as some DACA recipients and DREAMers. These actions closely followed the success of H.J.R. 69, or the Work Permits for All resolution in Illinois, which, thanks to the hard work of the Forum and the Work Permits for All Coalition, passed the Senate in the final hours of the last day of session. President Biden's most recent action is a step in the right direction as it will provide desperately needed relief for some families, but our communities deserve more. As we transition from summer to fall and approach the upcoming election, I urge you all to use your power by voting and continuing to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.

This year, Illinois made history by establishing the new Department of Early Childhood (SB1) and extending protections to all children from birth to age five, regardless of immigration status—the first state in the nation to do so. The Forum, alongside our partners, successfully advocated for the passage of SB1, which will integrate childcare and early childhood education programs to better serve families in Illinois. Read more about this and other developments on important policy and budgetary priorities we advocated for and followed in our updated 2024 Springfield Agenda.

As we celebrate these achievements, we are also preparing for our biggest event of the year, Latinos on the Move! Latinos on the Move will take place on Friday, October 11 at the Palmer House Hilton. Every year, we bring together experts to have insightful conversations about pressing issues for Latinos in Illinois and recognize outstanding people who have positively impacted our community. This year, we will focus on the key issues influencing local and national elections and highlight the crucial role of Illinois’ Latino voters. Registration is now open – please join us! I look forward to seeing you there.

In this season of growth, we are filled with gratitude for your continued support and engagement. Together, we are making significant strides towards a brighter, more equitable future for Latinos in Illinois. Thank you.

Sylvia Puente
President and CEO, Latino Policy Forum